Monday, June 2, 2008

running in the capital of Europe

We flew into Brussels on Friday morning from New York, arriving early at 9am. The weather was typical Brussels - overcast. Except it was also a lot cooler than what we had in New York. Arriving in Brussels I had a few meetings. But business is slower nowadays, which could be due to the global economic slowdown, or I have gotten smarter and don't load my schedule each day with unnecessary meetings. I've become a big believer in doing things over email or teleconference whenever possible.

Lucky, Friday is my recovery day, so I didn't have to go running upon arriving in Brussels. I couldn't have. My legs were still sore from the Wednesday night run, which was a fast pace 11 mile run from my apartment in Chelsea New York along the West Highway, into the FiDi (financial district) and over the Brooklyn Bridge. My good friend and college roommate Will H. Chancellor joined me. His name is so freaking British -- I'll let you all guess what the H stands for -- but the kid is prime time Texas bread. Don't hold it against him; he's a great guy, and will soon be a famous writer.

Running across the Brooklyn bridge was awesome. First, the bridge is older than my great grandfather. Built in 1883, the bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the US, connecting Manhattan on the east side with Brooklyn. It's one of the major traffic links for New Yorkers commuting in and out of Manhattan. The bridge is double layered, and it has a pedestrian section that passes through its middle. This makes it possible and pleasant to cross, except when you are walking or running across it, watch out for the bikers. They share the same section as the pedestrians, and they make it their business to try to run-over as many airy tourists as possible. I almost got nailed by a biker the other day. I didn't see him coming through the crowd but I did hear him screaming, move asshole. Part of living in New York is that scenes like this are standard daily experiences. You just get used to it and you roll with it.

Once you get over to the Brooklyn side of the bridge, a floor sign at the the foot of the bridge reads "Welcome to Brooklyn." There's no such sign on the Manhattan side, but this is the point. Brooklyn is patriotic.

Back in Brussels, the city dynamic is very different. The atmosphere feels sleepy, old and a bit uptight. It doesn't have the hustle and the buzz of New York. I woke up late on Sunday - much later than I wanted to for my long run. Our Brussels apartment/office is on Rue Gachard, which is just of Avenue Louise and a few blocks from Place Flagey . Place Flagey is a great area, with a lot of open plaza space, a number of great little restaurants -- we ate on Saturday at Aglio e Olio, an Italian prima cucina, which I highly recommend if you're half as crazy about pasta as I am. Their linguini con vongole is superb, and the house wine is great too. Go for the red. Flagey also has a lot of good beer stalls, but these are almost everywhere in Brussels, which is something I love about the city -- the excellent beer. Any bar you're in, order a blanche, you can't miss.

I set off for my 17 mile run (that's about 27.37 KM) along the lakes of Ixelles. The lakes begin at the foot of Place Flagey and continue up for about a half a mile. The first thing I noticed was the Sunday farmers market which they had set-up. The crates full of strawberries and the bread loafs reminded me how hungry I was, forgetting to eat before leaving the apartment. From the lakes, I turned to the streets and headed up towards Avenue F. Roosevelt, and from there to the park Bois de la Cambre. Running in the park felt good. I was away from the cars, and everyone around me was doing something sporty. It made me feel better being out on this run, which started off quite bad. My legs felt heavy.

From the Bois de la Cambre I jogged back to the road, connecting with Avenue Delleur, which becomes Boulevard du Souverain. This took me in a long circle around the outskirts of Brussels. I passed a number of open markets, and ended up at the footsteps of Avenue de Tervueren, having passed park Woluwe. Avenue de Tervueren is close on Sundays to traffic. Pedestrians take it over. Kids running around, dogs jumping at your feet. You can buy fresh produce, ethnic products, toys, watch shows and eat sausages, frittes, and waffles. All is there, and beer, on Avenue de Tervueren. I thought, I should come here when I'm not running to enjoy the show.

Avenue de Tervueren falls into the Cinquantenaire park, passing under the Belgian Arc de Triomphe, from where I headed for the European Council -- the Schuman building which for the next month will still display on its front face the symbol of the Slovenian EU Presidency. Slovenia has for the past five months been in charge of the EU. Once I was at the Schuman building, it was only 1.5 miles back to Flagey. A lap around the lakes and the voice on my new iPod said -- congratulations, you've completed your longest run yet. It was Lance Armstrong's voice. I was proud. I did it in 2h 8 min at an average pace of 7.34 min/mile.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Borut, congratulations. 17 mi @ 7.30 ?! You are ready! LP, Samo

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